By: Kjetil Malkenes Hovland
Somalilandsun —Norwegian oil company DNO AS A said Wednesday that several shots were fired near a team conducting a water survey on its behalf in Somaliland republic on Monday, but said it had no plans to exit the self-governed country.
DNO is currently exploring for oil in Somaliland, aformer part of Somalia that has been more stable than the rest of the country in recent years, and largely ruled by its own local government, which is trying to break away from the rest of the country. Somalia’s Mogadishu-based central government has said deals between oil companies and the Somaliland regional government are illegal.
“At approximately 3:30 p.m. local time [August 11], a limited number of gun shots were reportedly fired in the vicinity of the team,” said DNO spokesman Henrik Schwabe in an email. “No one was injured and the team was immediately repatriated to Hargeisa.”
DNO said the team was conducting a water survey in the Hudun area of the SL-18 license block in Somaliland on its behalf, as part of a DNO-funded project to provide local communities with safe drinking water. The company didn’t disclose the team’s nationality.
“The Somaliland authorities are investigating the matter further,” Mr. Schwabe said.
DNO said it was aware of local media claims that the company would exit Somaliland, but said that was incorrect speculation.
Somaliland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Behi Yonis said he had heard about the Hudun gunfire incident but didn’t know the full details. He said the region’s authorities were in the process of recruiting a security force, paid for by oil companies, to protect its oil assets.
“Soon we will hopefully have an oil protection unit,” Mr. Yonis said, adding that the force would number about 420 recruits. “We won’t have any events then,” he said.
Somaliland’s Minister of Energy wasn’t immediately available for comment.
A United Nations monitoring group earlier this year said it was concerned about Somaliland’s effort to build a security force, according to internal U.N. documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, in part because Somalia is subject to a U.N. arms embargo aimed at curbing years of conflict.
“As in every country in which we operate, the safety and security of operations is our first priority,” said Mr. Schwabe. “We are in regular contact with the Somaliland authorities and closely monitor the security situation in Block SL-18.”
Anglo-Turkish oil company Genel Energy PLC, which holds stakes in several licenses in Somaliland, pulled out of the autonomous region last September due to “a deteriorating security environment.” The company has since been in discussions with the Somaliland government on whether to resume its activity.
DNO has a 60% stake in the SL-18 license, a frontier onshore exploration block. It has completed a study of remote data and plans to gather seismic data in the area. DNO has previously said that it expected to spend between $10 million and $20 million on its Somaliland activities.
The company, based and listed in Oslo, has activity across the Middle East and North Africa, including the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Somaliland and Tunisia. DNO produced 39,170 barrels of oil equivalent a day in 2013.
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